by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 3 Study # 2 Lincolnton, NC April 18, 2004
The Textus Receptus varies from the Nestle/Aland 26 in two ways. First, the definite article "the" at the beginning of the verse(translated "who" by the Textus Receptus and "I" by the Nestle/Aland 26) has an "n" on the end (effectively making it an "accusative form) which the Nestle/Aland 26 does not have. Second, the Textus Receptus dropped the final "a" off of the word translated "but" or "howbeit". This may have been caused by the contraction of the phonetics of the sentence where two "a" sounds simply run together not only in pronunciation, but also in the written text. Neither of these variations makes any difference whatsoever in the translation or interpretation of the written text.
13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
13 though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief;
1. The point Paul wanted to make in this verse is that his gratitude toward Christ Jesus was very great because the grace He showed him was in spite of his identity at the time. This verse emphasizes the identity-characterization that marked Saul of Tarsus at the point when Christ Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus. He was not what most people think one must be in order to have the opportunity of salvation extended to him. This is because most people simply do not think clearly in "grace" terms. No matter how much "grace" is taught and emphasized, we still cling to our notions that "grace" has to be restricted to the "qualified". The fact is: "grace" is unfettered. It does not "need" a certain type of "pre-condition", nor does it "require" a certain type of "mind-set". Nor does it seek the acquiescence of humanity as to its plan or activities. Grace, as the New Testament presents it, only requires "faith" to come into its greatest effectiveness, but even that "faith" is often the result of grace, not the precursor to it [witness Zacharias' disbelief in the face of the promise of the birth of John -- his "faith" was a late dawning thing that only came because the grace was extraordinary in his experience]. Paul, as Saul the Persecutor, was not the recipient of the grace of Christ Jesus as it was revealed by the Personal Confrontation by reason of his "faith" or some level of precursing "humility". Christ Jesus simply determined that Saul would become Paul and went about His business of making His determination come to pass in Saul's personal history. And our text says later that the grace extended to Saul was extended precisely so that it would be the model for those to come afterwards.
2. Paul's self description at the time of the extension of grace...
a. A blasphemer: one who is derogatory of the glory of the blessed God.
b. A persecutor: one who will not abide those with whom there is significant theological difference.
c. An insolent man: one whose arrogance knows few, if any, boundaries.
3. Paul's explanation of the "why" of his receiving mercy from Christ Jesus...
a. His words almost sound like an "excuse"... i.e. "I was really not responsible as I was 'ignorant' and 'unbelieving'". Who, among the enemies of God, isn't both of these things?
b. How should we understand his words?
1) First, there is, in the Scripture, a difference between those who "blaspheme" ignorantly and those who "blaspheme" with a clear-eyed understanding that they are lying through their teeth even as they utter their words.
a) The Bible makes a distinction between those who sin "ignorantly" and those who sin "willfully" both in the Law and under Grace.
b) There is a difference between the arrogant persecutor who blasphemes while thinking he is serving God and the same kind of person who does what he does with full awareness that he is attempting to deceive those around him.
c) This raises the question of whether "grace" really does have certain "precursor" requirements after all. But, there is a difference between grace extended to one who has no experience of it and grace extended to one who has experienced it and rejected it. There are plenty of passages in the Scriptures which reveal that "grace" rejected often results in no further extension of "grace". Paul would have to say, therefore, that "grace" is only "effective grace" if it generates a clear-eyed grasp of the facts. If this occurs, one's response must be acceptance or the consequence is likely to be "no further grace". Paul does not teach that men can generate faith, but he clearly teaches that men can war against what they "believe/know" to be true.
2) Second, we must "adjust" our understanding of "ignorant" and "unbelieving". Most of us would say that the devil is both "ignorant" and "unbelieving" in the sense that he has obviously set himself against omnipotence and omniscience. However, we should understand that it is our definitions of the terms that allows us to say this, for the Bible would deny "ignorance" and "unbelief" to Satan. He both "believes" and "knows" [note Revelation 12:12]. His problem is neither ignorance, nor unbelief; it is, rather, a determined refusal to yield. This is the boundary of the "point of no return" beyond which there is no forgiveness because of the hardness of the heart through the deceitfulness of sin.
3) Paul would have none "believe" that "grace" is always available. It clearly is not for two reasons. First, "grace" is of sovereign initiative and, therefore, is only available as He chooses. Second, "grace" is extraordinarily opposed to "abuse" [How much sorer punishment think ye those will get who trample under foot the Son of God?].